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The Graduation Buck

The Buck of a Lifetime

As the last semester of my senior year was getting started in mid-January, it was time to get inventory ready and the booth loaded up for the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo. I was running my company’s (AntlerKingz) booth. My parents drove down for the day to check out the show and talk to our hunting buddies; the afternoon auction had just started, so I stopped in to talk to them and get away from the booth for a minute. The auction was well under way, but my parents said they were going to leave and head back home. Before they left, my dad told me to stay at the auction and buy myself a tag as a graduation present. The tag was for a well-known, limited-entry unit in southern Utah—the PAUNSAUGUNT! I was sitting at a table with good friend, boss, and outfitter, Doyle Moss of MossBack Guides and Outfitters. After I purchased the tag, we knew we had our work cut out for us, considering my past experience hunting the Paunsaugunt with a bow.

The rest of the school year passed and graduation came and went; summer came and went; before I knew it, August arrived and I was on the road heading south to help videotape a hunter as he harvested his once-in-a-lifetime archery mule deer, knowing that as soon as he was done, it would be my turn to chase big velvet-covered muley’s with stick and string. After hunting hard and spotting numerous bucks, on the fifth afternoon, Mark Heck was able to arrow an amazing 204-7/8” inch giant.

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Colorado Bruiser

Lifetime 220-inch Colorado Mule Deer


The 2014 hunting season had finally arrived. I was working in Dallas when my dad called and asked if I’d be able to fly out to a Colorado mule deer hunt in one week. My grandfather needed surgery and his operation was scheduled for the same time as the hunt. I understood my dad’s desire to be at my grandfather’s side for the surgery. Although also concerned about my grandfather’s wellbeing, I knew he would want me to go on the hunt. I was overwhelmed with excitement at the opportunity of going on a mule deer hunt, and booked my flight to Colorado. My dad’s been hunting mule deer in Colorado with Tri-State Outfitters for the past seven years, so I knew there’d be an opportunity to take a quality mule deer. Nevertheless, if someone had shown me a photo of the first mule deer I ever hunted, prior to the hunt, I never would have believed them.

In preparing for the hunt, I went to the range and made sure I could shoot out to at least 500 yards with my 300 ultra mag. My dad told me his average shot distance was close to 300 yards and that he had taken shots exceeding 500 yards. Over the years, I’ve seen the photos and mounts of incredible mule deer he has taken in Colorado, and I knew the shot I made would be crucial.

On the morning of November 5th, I departed the Dallas Fort Worth airport and picked up my rental vehicle after touching down in Colorado. I rendezvoused with my guide, Chip Beiner, at a local sporting goods store, picked up my mule deer tag, and followed him out to the hunting lodge. Chip guided my first antelope hunt in New Mexico back in August of 2010, so I knew he was an excellent guide. When we arrived at the lodge, Chip immediately told me to throw on my hunting clothes and be ready for action after lunch. We went into town to grab a meal and met with other hunters and guides. As it turned out, there were a lot of familiar faces and I had a good feeling about this hunt. After lunch, Chip and I hit the road.

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The Consistent Mule Deer Hunter

hi72 md pkendall 02Throughout our lives we encounter people that seem to have all the luck. We envy them, we’re jealous of them, we want to be like them, and we want to have their success. They may be a world-class athlete, businessman, classmate, coworker, family member, or the neighbor across the street. Maybe they’re somebody in the hunting industry. We see them over and over in magazines, TV shows, websites, or on social media. Every year, they are the guys that are grinning ear to ear behind a massive tangle of mule deer antlers. Over the years we watch their hair recede and the elements begin to take a toll on their weathered faces—deep wrinkles from all of that smiling over yet another monster mule deer.

As a young teenage hunter, my goal was to kill my first four-point buck, I wasn’t concerned with scores. That wasn’t much of thing back then—scores. Even then I recognized a pattern in most mule deer hunters. Once that first four-point was under your belt, you’d graduate to almost always killing a four-point. I also recognized the really big bucks were almost always killed by the same guys in deer camp.

Why do the same guys seem to kill the big bucks every year? Sure, you’ll always have the lucky draw that might put a hunter on the Paunsaugunt, the Arizona strip, or a fourth season tag in western Colorado. These are generally the hunters that only grace the pages of a hunting magazine once, maybe twice in a lifetime; these are generally not the hunters consistently harvesting mature bucks year after year.

 In reality, that’s all most hunters can hope for—be lucky enough to draw a handful of good tags throughout a lifetime of mule deer hunting. Maybe that’s not good enough for you? Your passion is mule deer hunting and your goal is to hunt and harvest mature, trophy-class mule deer every year.

 The fire and desire in you is burning, and its fuel is time and money. Without them, your mule deer dreams will become ashes before you can even warm your frozen toes.

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